Cancerversary-n. – 1._______________ 2. The anniversary of my first Cancer diagnosis
Part 2. Fighting the Demons
When I was diagnosed with cancer the first time, the reactions I received were puzzling to me. I needed someone to listen to me, and comfort me. I desperately needed to know my life mattered. I was placated. I was talked down to. No one I approached at first was there for me in the way I needed them to be. In defense of many, there is no rule book or training program on how to react to or support someone who has just found out they have cancer. I sought out other survivors to talk to. I discovered a lot of bitter survivors out there. Many who did not get the support they needed, the very same support I was seeking. I had one tell me “don’t talk to me until your hair falls out, that’s when it’s real cancer”.
I was shocked at how often I was dismissed. I was almost penalized because my cancers were not “real” because I never had to have radiation or chemotherapy. I am very lucky and fortunate to have a team of doctors who encouraged me to get regular examinations. This is why all were detected in the early stages. At one of my appointments I heard someone told, who just found out they had Thyroid cancer, by another patient in the waiting room, ”Oh you’re lucky, that’s an easy cancer”. I was just floored. This is one example of many, many, times I witnessed and experienced what I now call a cancer hierarchy. Some cancers are “respected” and some not. I still find this bizarre and heartbreaking.
Depression set in. My insecurity levels were through the roof. I was experiencing survivor guilt. Why was my cancer not as advanced as others? Why was I allowed to live when others lost their lives? I shut down. I internalized all my feelings and emotions. With each new diagnosis I would barely even mention it to anyone. I would tell people when they asked where I was “oh just another doctor’s appointment”. Shutting people out was a defensive mechanism. I was not getting the support I needed. Part of this was my own fault due to my withdrawing. I did have good friends who were there for me. I was just so withdrawn at this point to know they were there.
I became increasingly bitter and angry with my life. I made a lot of bad decisions. I trusted the wrong people, dated the wrong men. I was desperately trying to recreate my life and I was going about it all the wrong way. Not to mention, I was still using tanning beds. I was on a crash course to destruction. I was haunted by these demons of needing support and self-worth but shutting everyone out. The only thing that I started doing remotely good was working out and running. It was more for the therapeutic properties, but I was doing it regularly. During what was now a habitual morning run I realized I wanted to run away, again. So I did, I moved. I moved to another state, I started over. I wiped my slate clean. I took back my life. It wasn’t that easy at first, a couple painful wrong decisions were made in the process…but moving away ended up being one of my best decisions yet. This is my first public admission that I was, in fact, running away.
I made new friends, found my independence. I reconnected with old friends, good people in my life. I put my demons in a closet and shut the door, locked it, and threw away the key. I was me again, happy, full of life and laughter. I began dating the man I would now call my husband. We relocated to Las Vegas and married in our home state in a beautiful ceremony surrounded by friends and family.
A few years passed and my life was settling into normal. It had been a while since I’d last heard “you have cancer”. I began having symptoms like when I had cervical cancer, but different, very different. I was scared, here we go again? So I called my doctor. At my last appointment he had said with my new healthy habits it was as if I was reversing the damage that cancer had done. I made an appointment just to be safe. I had a battery of tests done and only one came back positive….
Part 1. The Diagnosis
Still to come:
Part 3. Time to get healthy
Part 4. My message to you